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MSIM’s Summer Book Project

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During the summer season, MSIM students are invited to participate in ongoing research projects that result in a book publication by MSIM Press. These publications are an example of the kind of student–faculty collaboration that is an essential building block of the MSIM program. 

The MSc in International Management (MSIM), like all AUP’s master’s programs, combines a strong foundation of theoretical understanding with practical applications. “We try as much as possible to focus on experiential learning,” explains Professor Albert Cath, Director of the MSIM program. “Students learn to adapt their knowledge to real-world situations to understand how it can best be applied.” Opportunities to do so take the form of study trips, hands-on workshops with practitioners and co-curricular opportunities, including directed studies. 

During the Summer semester, when classes are over and graduate students are mainly working on their Capstone projects, taking part in summer internships, or travelling, the MSIM program offers an optional directed study, allowing participants to apply classroom learning in a research context – and to become published authors in the process. The Summer Book Project sees students collaborating with faculty on a self-published book of research papers addressing a relevant management topic. Students experience the process of self-publishing their research from start to finish, supported by their peers and professors every step of the way. 

Back in May 2020, an MSIM student approached Cath and Professor Robert Earhart, then Program Director, to ask if the faculty could organize a project to keep students busy over the summer. “Our students do such excellent work through the program, but it often stays anonymous,” says Earhart. “A publication was a great way to ensure their work could be brought to the world.” Created following a period of confinement in France in response to Covid-19, the publication explored ways in which the pandemic could be seen as a dress rehearsal for future social and environmental problems. “The aim was to prepare participants as much as possible to tackle the future management implications of climate change and other forms of social upheaval,” explains Cath. 

The directed study group looked at ways in which management can learn from the current Covid-19 pandemic. Earhart and Cath wanted students to consider how they might apply theoretical and pragmatic management approaches to better understand the challenges anthropogenic climate change may create. “Can we really expect the same social, political and economic systems that failed to prevent and effectively mitigate the Covid-19 pandemic to do the same with anthropogenic climate change?” asks Earhart. “We are offering a clear case for an ongoing and profound engagement with the very forces that threaten to destroy us so that we can rethink how we strategically address complex global challenges at the most fundamental level.” 

In total, five students contributed chapters to the book; Kevin Jarussi ’20 was one of them. “I’m originally from Montana in the United States, where my family has a ranch,” he explains. “Professor Cath suggested that I do an autoethnographic study about my family’s land.” Kevin Jarussi spoke to ranchers in the region, along with the head of the Montana Organic Association, to get a sense of how the pandemic was affecting the local agricultural industry. “Covid exposed a lot of cracks in the food supply chain, but it also led to farmers making connections that they might not otherwise have made.” Kevin proposed ways in which local knowledge and talent could be leveraged to foster relationships between agricultural workers that would be economically and environmentally sustainable in the long term. 

He went on to turn the project into a way to fulfill his internship requirements, collaborating with both professors all along the book’s publication: “I now know the entire self-publishing process – from designing and organizing, to submitting the finished product.” He also produced a consulting report for the University, analyzing the costs and benefits of creating a permanent MSIM press. Kevin now works for a Minneapolis-based startup, Ethos, which has created a data platform for ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) investing. The company has just finished its pre-seed round of funding. Kevin’s professional trajectory is an example of the kind of career reorientation that the MSIM program can facilitate. 

“We are finalizing a second book which is produced by a new quintet of student authors,” says Professor Cath. The new publication – which explores the concept of hyper-management, or the management of organizations subject to complex forces beyond human control – questions how well strategic management frameworks perform in diverse contexts, such as climate change, growing economic inequality, and the ongoing global pandemic. “A simple question from one student in the summer of 2020 has now led to this book project becoming part and parcel of the entire MSIM program,” explains Cath. “We like that kind of emergence.”